Pharma’s Increasing Need for Competitive Intelligence - Diaceutics

Pharma’s Increasing Need for Competitive Intelligence

August 17th, 2016

Steve Vitale

Competitive intelligence can offer huge benefits to pharma companies, especially in personalized medicine where market trends are continually shifting. In a world where available data grows by the second, Steve Vitale of Diaceutics examines how it can be used to optimise expertise and understanding in order to gain an edge.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Hiding in a mountain of big data and ever-increasing information are the golden nuggets that have the potential to transform a pharma company’s direction in regards to personalized medicine. The tricky part is to pinpoint and collect those valuable nuggets to build a wealth of usable material or intelligence that supports a targeted therapy or diagnostic and provides a competitive edge.

Here is one definition of competitive intelligence (CI):

  • “Competitive Intelligence is a systematic process that transforms random bits and pieces of data into strategic knowledge.1

Competitive intelligence is evolving and changing and its importance is judged very differently by leading pharma companies. For many, the value and need for CI is recognised but, as is often the case, the resources to fund this vary wildly from fully staffed and resourced CI divisions, to a couple of people diverted from marketing, to the increasingly common ‘outsourcing to a vendor’ model. Whatever the set-up, they still really focus on assets and therapies with little understanding of diagnostics. This is not an attempt to assess which approach is right or even advisable, but to see what these teams are looking for and how their findings can affect diagnostic development.

Competitive intelligence is all about filtering knowledge and insight from data and information, allowing a company to keep an eye on the landscape and disseminate relevant information across teams. Done properly it is meant to:

  • Gather information leading to actionable insights
  • Align information to existing strategies
  • Guide tactical execution
  • Identify potential partnerships or opportunities to re-evaluate strategies
  • Protect market position
  • Confirm or deny market rumours
  • Focus on the external environment
  • Improve company success

Perhaps most importantly, it can provide reassurance that there are no big surprises coming along from your competitors.

Competitive intelligence in action

A team tasked with responsibility for CI will look for sources and data that can be turned into information. They want to know what the marketing, sales and clinical teams are hearing from customers and investors. They’ll be looking at clinical trials and their competitors’ press releases and investment reports. And they’ll be listening to the opinions of thought leaders and key stakeholders, such as payers, hoping to derive intelligence for actionable long-term strategy or implementation purposes. Ultimately, they can mine this data to stride with confidence on explicit, clear information or make leaps of faith based on seeds of implicit information.

Depending on resources, CI teams can work at different levels. At the basic level they can gather and share information internally, leaving other teams to react to that data. Or they can develop dashboards that self-serve by internally distributing CI reports but also collect submitted insights from other divisions. In a tactical fight, the CI team might focus on one particular rival, gathering available knowledge to exploit potential weaknesses.

The growing need for CI in the personalized medicine space

Pharma companies face particular challenges in CI now that personalized medicine is the predominant R&D business model and stakes can be so high. CI may sometimes be lumped into the market research department’s remit but it may also act as a standalone function within the organization. Similarly, there are often differences in how CI is handled by R&D versus commercial teams. The models are constantly changing and they have some risks. For instance, the increasing use of external vendors that collect and hold vital information on your company in relation to the competition creates a dynamic where key data and knowledgeable insights are not captured internally and, should the relationship end or budgets for outsourcing run out, could even be lost. Also, if a company encourages an internal ebb and flow of intelligence from front line teams such as sales and marketing, then there needs to be very clearly-defined compliance rules which are well established and robustly monitored in order to prevent inappropriate sharing of valuable data.

Each model of CI has its own risks and implications. What is obvious, though, is that organizations must be able to simultaneously police and benefit from their expertise. It’s a fine line between risk and enterprise.

Competitive intelligence is particularly relevant to personalized medicine because of the shifting market dynamics that are absent around traditional therapies. Pharma companies with a strong awareness here are adjusting their focus from oncology towards non-oncology disease areas such as autoimmune and CNS (Figure 1). They can use CI to gain insight into clinical trials, new biomarkers, key partnerships and how to improve regulatory and clinical success for certain assets.

Figure 1. Dx biomarker-centred deals. Diaceutics PM Research2.

Figure 1. Dx biomarker-centred deals. Diaceutics PM Research2.

Personalized medicine is not only shifting its focus to newer disease areas but also to the billion dollar mobile health and wearables market, so companies need to broaden their scope. CI and its relevant tools and dashboards, when effectively employed, can enable manipulation of myriad sources of information driving key insights and leading a company to ask, “What should we do to maintain a position of strength?”

Wearables and health apps can improve patient monitoring and increase patient and physician satisfaction with a therapy. For instance, in MS, an activity tracker can help establish a fitness routine, guide treatment or assess quality of movement, and an app has helped MS patients to better engage and communicate information to their physicians. If an app can monitor or prevent flare-ups, pharma can really focus its efforts on delving deeper into the benefits for a particular patient population. But first it has to cut through all the noise created in the mobile health market.

The application of competitive intelligence

Companies want to know where their competitors’ interests lie and how they compare, particularly in personalized medicine, but sorting the gems from the mounds of information is a specialist job. For instance, when a company reaches out to Diaceutics and asks, “How are we positioned from a personalized medicine perspective?” it is possible to refine a search and gain a sharper insight by reviewing our own sources of data, applying our specialized lens and talking independently to other experts actively working in same field. We can assess how the company is structured and analyse its capabilities and resources in comparison with its main competitors.

Existing intelligence and resources allow us to build a database for a client that details what we see emerging in the field and where they should act. It can grow data from existing reports into another level, continually building up valuable peer information. Our customized Diaceutics Market Insights Trackers focus intelligence gathering and expert analysis around a specific biomarker or a personalized medicine technology area, based on a client’s needs. Insights are drawn from a comprehensive biomarker tracking database related to the latest news in the field, data trends and executives in close contact with KOLs. Data is then interpreted and reported according to the impact on the client’s brand or portfolio.

When pharma companies can find out exactly what they need to know regarding the personalized medicine trends and developments of a specific disease area or biomarker, and it comes packaged with direct insights about their competitors, then we can see competitive intelligence being crafted from that first gold nugget into a valuable unit of currency.


  1. Kirk Tyson, The Complete Guide to Competitive Intelligence, Leading Edge Publications (5th edition, 2010)
  2. Diaceutics PM Research


View all blogs

Webinars & Podcasts

August 20th, 2019
Podcast: How Diaceutics is repairing the diagnostic testing ecoystem for patients worldwide
Diaceutics CEO, Peter Keeling joins Pat Kenny on Newstalk FM to discuss how analyzing Big Data to implement better diagnostic testing can help patients access better treatment options for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
July 5th, 2019
Liquid Biopsy in NSCLC
View all

Expert Insights

April 19th, 2018
The CMS National Coverage Decision on NGS
I. Introduction On March 16, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a National Coverage Determination (NCD) that cove...
January 19th, 2018
What does the EU IVD Regulation mean for companion diagnostics and LDTs?
Dave Smart, PhD, Director at Diaceutics, discusses the introduction of the EU IVD Regulation. While it is considered a necessary step, the Regulati...
View all expert insights

Competitive Benchmarking Reports

October 21st, 2019
Pharma Precision Medicine Readiness Report 2019
March 16th, 2018
PM Readiness Report 2018 Summary
View all reports

Case Studies

View all case studies


June 25th, 2019
FLT3 testing in relapsed Acute Myeloid Leukemia setting is becoming increasingly common, but laboratory turnaround times (TAT) may be a barrier to treatment with second generation FLT3 inhibitors
The treatment landscape in AML has developed at an astonishing pace in the last 3 years, with 5 therapies being approved by the FDA. FLT3 inhibitors gilteritinib (Gil) and quizartinib (Quiz) present an unprecedented opportunity for improved surviv...
May 23rd, 2019
Diaceutics reviews the ongoing debate on diagnostics reform legislation
Thought leaders at Diaceutics recently authored a peer-reviewed article that covers the ongoing national debate over diagnostics reform legislation in the United States. The article is now available online ahead of print in the Journal of Molecula...
View all publications